4 min read

The Day We Were Pickpocketed…

…by a deer!

Only in Nara would such a spectacle occur. Deer are considered sacred animals or messengers of the gods that provide protection to both the city and the country. Vendors sell biscuits to those wanting to feed the very sociable deer. We (particularly Carmela) wanted no part of it because one of those creatures started nibbling on her pocket looking for food when she was looking the other way — sneaky! However, it was rather hysterical to watch visitors of every age feeding the overly enthusiastic deer their snacks, thin biscuits called shika sembei.

Note that the purpose of our visit wasn’t the deer (silly), but the Todaiji Temple.

Rain was coming down in buckets when we stepped out of the train station in Nara and the bus ride and walk to the Temple left us soaked until we finally faced the reality that an umbrella would be a necessity. We’ve grown to realize the beauty of the rain, either just a cloud or a complete downpour, and the sentiment remained true here. Watching the sea of tourists, school children, and locals guarded by their colorful umbrellas move seamlessly towards the temple created a peaceful prelude for our entry.

The Todaiji Temple was built in 752 and acted as the central administrative Buddhist temple for all the temples in Japan at the time. The main hall sheltering the sitting, 15 meter tall Buddha (Daibutsu) is the largest wooden structure in the world even though it was reconstructed about 500 years ago and is now two-thirds it’s original size.

The grandeur and beauty of the Buddha and surrounding statues conveyed a strong sense of sacredness and serenity. We admired them in awe and hushed silence until we turned a corner and heard bouts of laughter and cheering. This is why:

The hole in this pillar is the size of the Buddha’s nostril and, according to the legend, if you can squeeze through this tiny opening, you will have enlightenment in your next life. The school children and even their teacher were able to make it through — so one of us had to give it a try.

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